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Trading standards information

© 2011 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.

Price marking of goods for retail sale

The retail sale of goods requires that a selling price is given to consumers; find out what is required

This guidance is for England and Wales

Where goods are offered for sale they must have their price clearly indicated, and be inclusive of VAT (if the price can be seen by consumers). There are specific requirements for indicating the unit price of a product.

The legislation specific to price marking applies to products only and is limited to sales between traders and consumers. However, there is more general consumer protection legislation that defines 'product' more broadly including goods, services, rights, and obligations.

This legislation prohibits traders from giving misleading information to consumers about prices and prohibits traders from misleading other traders in relation to pricing when advertising their products.

In the guide

The law

The Price Marking Order 2004 (PMO) applies to products only and is limited to sales between traders and consumers. It does not apply to services or products supplied in the course of the provision of a service. The Order also does not apply to sales by auction or sales of works of art or antiques.

However, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) prohibit traders from not giving material information or hiding material information in relation to products ('product' is defined more broadly in the CPRs and includes goods, services, rights and obligations) that would affect or be likely to affect a consumer's decision to buy the product or not. Therefore, although the PMO does not apply to services or products supplied in the course of providing a service, there is a requirement under the CPRs to make sure pricing information is given clearly if it would affect a consumer's decision. The CPRs also prohibit giving misleading information to consumers about prices. See 'Consumer protection from unfair trading' for more information.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) issued a Pricing Practices Guide, which gives advice to traders on good practice regarding giving information about prices.

There are separate regulations called the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 that prohibit advertising that misleads traders in relation to the price of the product - see 'Business-to-business marketing' for more information.

What does the Price Marking Order require?

Where goods are offered for retail sale, the selling price and - where appropriate - the unit price (for example, 65p per 100g) must be given to consumers in writing (including prices in catalogues, shops and online). Small shops that have a retail area of less than 280m² do not need to display a unit price.

How should price indications be given?

When selling to the general public, all pricing information must be clearly legible, unambiguous, easily identifiable, in sterling, and inclusive of VAT and any additional taxes.

Pricing information must be given close to the product, or in the case of distance contracts (for example, online or mail order sales) and advertisements, close to a picture or written description of the product. In relation to sales by telephone, price indications must be clearly audible and linked to the subject of the transaction.

Prices can be shown:

  • on goods themselves
  • on a ticket or notice near to the goods
  • grouped together with other prices on a list or catalogue(s) in close proximity to the goods. If counter catalogues are used, there should be sufficient copies for consumers to refer to

Pricing information must be available - that is, clearly visible to consumers without them having to ask for assistance in order to see it.

Legibility refers to a consumer with normal sight. Traders must also comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and take account of the special needs of the elderly and disabled groups.

Goods that are kept out of the consumer's sight are exempt from price marking until an indication is given that they are for sale.

What about goods in shop windows?

Items displayed for sale in a shop window should display pricing information as per the above requirements. Exceptions to this are jewellery, precious metal or watches where the individual selling price is more than £3,000. These products need not bear pricing information in close proximity to the item. However, the pricing information must still be given elsewhere - for example, by means of a price list in store.

Window displays that do not contain products that are removed and sold to consumers may be regarded as being purely promotional. They will fall within the definition of 'advertisement' and be exempt. Traders are advised to contact their local trading standards service for guidance on this matter.

Can price indications be in a foreign currency?

If traders indicate that they are willing to accept foreign currency for the purchase of a product, in addition to the required price indications in sterling they must also:

  • give the price in the foreign currency together with any commission to be charged
  • clearly give the conversion rate together with the commission to be charged
  • indicate that these do not apply to transactions via a payment card for a non-sterling account

What about VAT and other charges?

All price indications that can be seen by consumers must include VAT and any other compulsory charges or taxes. Postage, packing or delivery charges may be shown separately as long as they are unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible.

If the rate or application of VAT or any other tax changes:

  • general notices in store may be used for up to 14 days after the change takes effect, indicating that prices will be adjusted at the till to reflect the change in tax
  • catalogues and sales literature may continue to be distributed providing:
    - a label is attached indicating prices will be adjusted to reflect the change
    - there is sufficient information to allow adjusted prices to be established or a supplement accompanies the catalogue/sales literature, which enables consumers to establish the selling price

What are the unit-pricing requirements?

A unit price must be given when products are either:

  • sold loose from bulk (for example, fruit and vegetables, meat and fish)
    ...or
  • required by the Weights and Measures Act 1985 to be marked with an indication of quantity or to be made up in a prescribed quantity (for example, wine). See 'Relevant units of quantity for specific products for the purpose of the definition of 'unit price' below for a summary of the requirements under weights and measures legislation

A unit price must be given in adverts only where the selling price of a product is indicated.

The unit price for most products is the price per kilogram, litre, metre, square metre, or cubic metre, and the unit 'one' for goods sold by number. Certain items, identified in the 'Relevant units of quantity...' list below are exempt from this requirement and the unit price should be given for an alternative quantity (for example, price per 100g for sweets). Similar products should use the same unit for unit pricing purposes to allow consumers to readily compare prices between them.

For solid food products in a liquid medium (that is, water, brine, vinegar, syrups and fruit or vegetable juice) the unit price must refer to the net drained weight of the product.

Traders can give the imperial equivalent unit price, provided the metric unit price is given greater prominence and the imperial equivalent equates to the metric price.

Where the unit price falls below £1 it must be given to the nearest 0.1p. If it is above £1 it may be given to the nearest 1p or 0.1p.

The following do not require an indication of selling price:

  • advertisements (this exemption does not apply to catalogues, or to advertisements that are intended to encourage distance contracts - for example, via the internet, or mail order adverts in newspapers)
  • products sold loose from bulk (these will require unit pricing - selling price refers to the final price payable for a given quantity of a product)

The following do not require an indication of the unit price:

  • advertisements by radio, television, cinema or in a small shop
  • products that have had the price reduced due to damage or danger of deterioration
  • an assortment of different items sold in a single package
  • products whose unit price would be 0.0p by virtue of the rounding provisions
  • where the item's selling price is equal to its unit price
  • products prepacked in a constant quantity and bread made up in a prescribed quantity that are sold from any of the following:
    - a small shop
    - a mobile trader (such as selling from a stall, barrow, etc)
    - a vending machine
  • shops with a floor area or display not exceeding 280m² (note you may be required to produce evidence of this)

Promotions

Promotional offers should be unit-priced to reflect the single standard product.

Retailers may give additional information if they wish (that is, the reduced unit price if purchasing a multi-buy offer may be shown) as long as it is clear to which products it relates.

Limited period promotions (such as 10% extra free) that relate to individual products may retain the unit price of the standard product for the period of the offer. Retailers may give additional information if they wish - for example, they may show the unit prices of both the standard and promotional products but they must be absolutely clear to which products they relate.

Precious metals

In the case of products where the selling price varies from day to day according to the price of the precious metals contained in them, the requirement to indicate the selling price may be complied with by indicating both of the following:

  • the weight, type and standard of fineness of each precious metal contained in the product with a clearly legible and prominent notice stating the price per unit of weight for each of these
  • any element of the selling price, which is not referable to weight

Relevant units of quantity for specific products for the purpose of the definition of 'unit price'

FOOD AND DRINK

Product Units
Biscuits and shortbread (except where sold by number) 100g
Bread (except where sold by number) 100g
Breakfast cereal products (except where required to be quantity marked by number) 100g
Chocolate and sugar confectionery 100g
Coffee 100g or ml
Cooked or ready to eat fish, seafood, and crustacea 100g
Cooked or ready to eat meat including game and poultry 100g
Cream and non-dairy alternatives to cream 100ml
Dips and spreads excluding edible fats 100g
Dry sauce mixes 100g
Flavouring essences 10ml
Food colourings 10ml
Fruit juices, soft drinks 100ml
Fresh processed salad 100g
Herbs 10g
Ice cream and frozen desserts 100g or ml
Pickles 100g
Pies, pasties, sausage rolls, puddings and flans indicating net quantity (except where sold by number) 100g
Potato crisps and similar products commonly known as snack foods

100g

Preserves including honey 100g
Ready to eat desserts 100g or ml
Sauces, edible oils 100ml
Soups 100g
Spices 10g
Tea and other beverages prepared with liquid 100g
Wines, sparkling wine, liqueur wine, fortified wine 75cl
Waters, including spa waters and aerated waters 100ml

NON-FOODS

Product Units
Ballast, where sold by the kilogram 1,000kg
Coal, where sold by the kilogram 50kg
Cosmetic products other than make-up products 100g or ml
Handrolling and pipe tobacco 100g
Lubricating oils other than oils for internal combustion engines 100ml
Make-up products (except where sold by number) 10g or ml
Seeds other than pea, bean, grass and wild bird seeds 10g

Non-exclusive list of products subject to quantity marking and unit pricing

Any package that carries an 'e' mark (which indicates that it has been packed following the strict requirements of average quantity legislation) has to be marked with quantity, in terms of weight or volume, within the requirements of the Weights and Measures Act 1985. See 'Packaged goods - average quantity' for more information.

Most packaged food and drink is required to be marked with quantity.

The main non-food products that are required to carry quantity marking by net weight, volume or capacity are as follows (subject to certain exemptions):

  • construction products (including sand and other ballast, hard-core and aggregates, ready-mixed cement mortar, ready-mixed concrete, and Portland cement)
  • decorating products (including paints, enamels and lacquers, paint solvents, paint strippers and thinners, varnishes and similar products, wood preservative, rust remover, and petrifying fluid)
  • fuel/oil and car products (including liquid fuel, lubricating oil, mixtures of fuel/oil, lubricating grease and anti-freeze)
  • solid-fuel products (coal, coke and solid fuels derived from these)
  • agricultural products (including agricultural liming materials, prepacked fertilisers, inorganic fertilisers, liquid fertilisers, seeds and rolled oats)
  • aerosol dispensers
  • cleaning and products (including household soap, detergents, conditioners and rinse aids, bleaches, cleaning and scouring powders, polishes and similar products, and disinfectants)
  • cosmetics (including perfumes, soap, talcum powder, shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorants)
  • household pet and bird foods
  • knitting and rug yarns
  • tobacco for pipes and for cigarettes rolled by hand or by use of a device operated only by hand
  • various multi-packs and many-item packs containing a quantity of the same product are also required to be quantity marked

The following are required to be marked with number:

  • cheroots, cigarettes, and cigars
  • postal stationery (paper or cards for use in correspondence) and envelopes
  • nails (or by weight)

The following have to be marked by length:

  • bias binding, elastic, ribbon, tape, and sewing thread

Detailed information will be found in the Weights and Measures Act 1985, Schedules 4-7, and in orders and regulations made under that Act.

Penalties

Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty on conviction in the Magistrates' Court is a fine of £5,000 per offence. The maximum penalty on conviction in the Crown Court is an unlimited fine and/or two years' imprisonment. 

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Last reviewed/updated: June 2014

© 2014 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.

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